Laramie Movie Scope: Lady Bird
Coming-of-age dramedy at a California Catholic school
(2017) During a long drive with her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf), Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), a middling senior in a Catholic high school in Sacramento, wanting to attend college on the East Coast where there's more culture and opportunity ("I hate California"), argues ("The only thing exciting about 2002 is that it's a palindrome") with her opinionated, strong-willed mom, a nurse, who accuses her daughter of being selfish, never satisfied with what she has.
"You wouldn't get into those schools anyway," says her mother, pointing out that Christine couldn't even pass her driver's test: "You should just go to City College. You know, with your work ethic just go to City College and then to jail and then back to City College and then maybe you'd learn to pull yourself up and not expect everybody to do everything." Christine opens the car door and intentionally falls out onto the road with the car in motion.
Lady Bird wears a cast on her right arm at Immaculate Heart where she chums with her very chubby best friend Julie Steffans (Beanie Feldstein), who says of herself: "Some people aren't built happy, you know." They eat unconsecrated wafers and discuss hydro-stimulation in the bath and shower.
A coming-of age dramedy written and directed by Greta Gerwig in which Lady Bird - asked about her name, "I gave it to myself, it's given to me by me" - lives with her parents and older brother Miguel (Jordan Rodrigues) and his live-in girlfriend Shelly Yuhan (Marielle Scott), whose mother booted her out for having premarital sex. Oddly, Miguel isn't given a backstory, though he's a Latino unlike Marion and Larry (Tracy Letts), likely adopted, possibly because Lady Bird's parents didn't think they could have their own children but then Christine arrived unexpectedly, which would add depth to her feelings of being unloved and unliked by her mother.
More is revealed of the biography of Father Leviatch (Stephen McKinley Henderson) from Diana Greenway's mouth - "I heard that before he became a priest, he was married, and had a son named Etienne, who died at 17 of a drug overdose, which maybe was a suicide. But my mom says same difference, if you're that careless with your life" - than is supplied about Miguel.
Both Julie and Lady Bird attend auditions to try out for the school musical - everyone gets in - where boys from Xavier also participate, the lead going to Danny O'Neill (Lucas Hedges). Meeting Danny in a grocery store, Lady Bird says of herself living "on the wrong side of the tracks." Unlike Julie, whom her math teacher Mr Bruno calls Jules, Lady Bird lacks an algebraic attitude, though her dad's a computer programmer. Maybe, Julie says, it's her mother's fault.
During a dance with everyone in cowboy costumes, Sister Sarah Joan (Lois Smith) reminds couples holding one another tight: "Six inches for the Holy Spirit." Things get worse at home when Lady Bird's father loses his job - "Money is not life's report card," counsels Marion to her daughter: "Being successful doesn't mean anything in and of itself. It just means that you're successful. But that doesn't mean that you're happy" - compounded by her mother's then harping on her slovenliness as indicative of a family that looks like trash.
Romancing with Danny, she gives him permission to touch her boobs, to which he says he has too much respect for her. For Thanksgiving, Danny invites Lady Bird to his grandmother's home, of which Lady Bird has long held in high esteem as her idea of a dream house. At the back of a line waiting to get into the women's restroom, Lady Bird decides, with Julie in tow, to use the men's bathroom where there's never a line; but inside a toilet stall they discover a disturbing surprise.
After school at the New Helvetia Café, Lady Bird works along with Miguel; she flirts with Kyle Scheible (Timothée Chalamet), a member of the band L'Enfance Nue, an anarchist with very well-to-do parents (though his dad's dying of cancer), and friend of gorgeous Jenna Walton (Odeya Rush). Following Jenna's being scolded by Sister Joan for wearing her skirt too short, Lady Bird to make an impression on the school beauty comes up with a prank of revenge, decorating the nun's vehicle with "Just Married to Jesus."
During an assembly, Casey Kelly (Bayne Gibby) speaks to the girls of Immaculate Heart of herself being the child of a mother who wanted to get an abortion. Overheard commenting that "Just because something looks ugly doesn't mean that it's morally wrong," Lady Bird is accosted by the guest speaker: "You think dead children aren't morally wrong?"
Lady Bird answers bluntly: "No. I'm just saying that, if you took up-close pictures of my vagina while I was on my period, it would be disturbing but it doesn't make it wrong." Casey Kelly: "Excuse me?" Lady Bird explains: "Listen, if your mother had had the abortion, we wouldn't have to sit through this stupid assembly!"
Suspended from school for the remark, Lady Bird lies to Jenna of where she lives. Kyle also disappoints Lady Bird's expectations as her boyfriend - "You're gonna have so much unspecial sex in your life" - though she still agrees to go to the prom with him.
Shopping with her mom for a prom dress, Marion says after another disagreement: "I want you to be the very best version of yourself that you can be." To which Lady Bird replies: "What if this is the best version?" When Kyle arrives in his car with Jenna and her date in the backseat to pick her up, her father, otherwise solicitous and compassionate, questions: "You're not gonna get in a car with a guy that honks, are ya?"
From Carol Zimmermann with Catholic News Service: "Part of a voice-over in the trailer for 'Lady Bird' - playing over scenes from the movie and in between dialogue - comes from a homily delivered to Catholic high school students attending a school Mass in the beginning of the movie. 'We're afraid that we'll never escape our past. We're afraid of what the future will bring. We're afraid we won't be loved, we won't be liked and we won't succeed,' the priest says. Not all of the sermon, even what was shown in the trailer, made it to the final cut of the coming-of-age movie, but that's OK with Claretian Father Paul Keller, who spoke these words."
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